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Based on Johnnyclyde's stunning animations (V1 and V2).

I lost her. And I don’t know if I’ll ever find her again.

One second we were talking about our future, about…the next I was here, back in the city I’d left years ago. It's dark and raining, which seems only fitting. Out the way you came in, as they say.

I want to say it was 1985 when we met. I haven’t had to worry about days or months or years for so long…I kinda forgot what it’s like to have life revolve around the sun. I think it was ’85, though. I think. I never had to worry about that with her. I remember it was raining and I was young…couldn’t have been much more than 18.

I used to hang out around what they called an “electronics salvage station”. A glorified name for a dump, but it amounted to a maze of wires and silicon that just fascinated me. Cracked glass screens were littered everywhere, along with rusted shells of every machine you can imagine. I used to wander around and just take things apart. Part of me enjoyed seeing how things worked…part of me just enjoyed breaking stuff.

On this day, in whatever month, in whatever year, it was raining. I was soaked through and had already decided to leave the dump. Thunder clapped above me, and the rain started coming down in heavy sheets as I backtracked through the corridors of tangled metal. I still don’t understand how she arrived there, or how the TV worked, but I don’t think she could explain it either. She just appeared.

Up ahead, nearly drowned out by the torrents of rain, came the growing sound of static. The source became apparent as I approached it; it was an old TV. Looking at it from behind, I couldn’t see where it was being powered from…in fact I couldn’t see any cords on the thing at all. The warped hiss crackled in rhythm like a ghostly hymn. I circled around as the static subsided into a dull hum, and she was already there by the time I could see the screen.

Her hand was outstretched, hovering in the damp air as beads of rain washed over it. Cathode-fueled swirls of color danced along her fingers, and at first I couldn't grasp what I was seeing. It took me a moment to associate the hand reaching out from the TV with the figure looking out from within its chipped screen. She was stunning. She looked at me and smiled, hand still outstretched. Now, instead of touching the cold rain, it was being offered to me.

I didn’t even think about it. Just like that, I took her hand, and she pulled me in.

Everything was black and white. I was sitting in a living room…it wasn’t mine, and yet it seemed incredibly familiar. I couldn’t quite place it. She was sitting next to me on a couch; it took me a moment to recognize her without the oscillating coils of color.

Her name was Calliope. She wore a t-shirt and jeans, and had a devilish kind of grin on her face. Her voice was like music. I’ve always thought that, but I remember it really struck me the first time I heard her speak.

We were in The Night of the Living Dead, as it turned out…Calliope has always had a funny sense of humor. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening until the protagonists Ben and Barbra showed up, followed by a mob of the rabid undead. I scrambled around in total confusion with the survivors as Calliope watched on and giggled. She apologized later as we unwound in a shampoo commercial; everyone had been eaten alive by the end of the movie.

That was our first date.

She couldn’t explain how we were able to meander through the frequencies from channel to channel, or how we could interact with the analogue world as we could. It was just something she’d always done. I’ve considered how the combined spectrums of phase, frequency, and amplitude allow for an immeasurable number of outcomes or values, but how that translated to Calliope and I was inexplicable. Neither of us knew how we were able to live in the broadcast, wandering aimlessly through the airwaves.

TV shows were always fun, but we spent most of our time in reruns of old movies. I remember Nosferatu scared us senseless. Count Orlok is a real dick, and should never be trusted. Never ever, for any reason, with anything.

Calliope later admitted that she hadn’t had romance in mind when she pulled me in, but we quickly hit it off. We had our first kiss overlooking a desert mesa as the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode into the sunset. We’d end up watching that evening sun more times than I could count. The mesa below changed every time, inevitably altered by the chaos Calliope and I brought, but the sun always shone in its dull, monochrome glory.

I proposed to her in a lost episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In addition to a kiss that would’ve broken broadcast regulations, we prevented a murder.

You’d be surprised how little you have to change to get enormous alterations from the “set plan”. Once, I moved a painting from one wall to the next in a sci-fi movie, and it ended with the world exploding. Calliope said it exemplified my lack of decorating skills, and I kinda have to agree.

We had our honeymoon in all the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. Most of the time we just sat in the background; sometimes by the piano, other times just on a park bench or at a restaurant table. But sometimes we just couldn’t help but sing and dance along.

It was always a game…nothing was ever really at stake. But sometimes we’d forget that and lose ourselves in a story, shedding our goofy detachment for something more terrifying and delightful and overwhelming. When we found ourselves suspending belief like that, the world suddenly became very serious and everything had weight. More often, things seemed abstract; we’d just meander from one rerun to the next like a wakeless lucid dream. But when we were invested, when we let ourselves get coaxed into the story and people around us, everything seemed as solid and concrete as the world I’d left. Sometimes it’d feel like we lived an entire life over the course of a rerun.

Keaton and Chaplin are…or were…I don’t know…they’re our favorites. Two true delightful men, separated by the confines of their own films. Every time we changed something in a scene, they knew just how to react, how to draw laughter out of the world. We’d chat by passing notebooks back and forth, since most of their films are silent, and we’d write for hours. When we had the chance to talk with them in their later movies, in talkies, it was a rare treat.

I think I some idea what happened, though. How I ended up here, outside of the broadcast. Not long ago, we were messing with a news anchor who was reporting on how all analogue stations were being dropped in favor of digital ones. We didn’t really give it much thought, I mean, why would we? We’d never had to worry about anything in a chronological, let alone corporeal sense. We ended up throwing a party with the anchor and the weather lady…technically their recorded selves, of course…and largely forgot about the piece they’d been reporting on.

But I don’t want to think about that. I want to think about…sometimes we’d be the buzzkill of noir movies and arrest the crook from the get-go. When asked how we knew, we’d simply say we “had a hunch”. That was always enough. Always.

…We were talking about having kids when everything went wrong…when I was dragged back here. We weren’t sure if we even could conceive, or what it’d be like. I assumed she’d have some idea, but she was just as clueless as I was. I don’t know if we’ll ever get the chance now.

Now…now I don’t know what to do. How to get back. How to see her again and live in the reruns like we did for so long.

I don’t know what the “digital broadcast” means, or how it works, but I intend to find out.

I intend to find her.

Continue Reading

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